Episode 2: My Self-Employment Story

In this early morning hour, we're going to talk about how I got to the point where I'm working 20 hours a week and earning over six figures, running a business from home, and how I have gotten to a point where I feel like I have just the right balance of work, home life, and personal life.

In today's conversation, you're going to really learn what it means to find your voice in your career and in your life. Finding your voice means really finding your place and finding more about who you are. It's not just about overcoming shyness. That's one definition that people give to it. In my own story, shyness was a part of it. But, overall, finding your voice is going to be a very strong theme in this show. And my hope is by the end of today's episode, you will understand more about what that means to find your voice, and what you need to do to begin that journey of finding your voice, being able to get to a place where you're confident in what you're doing professionally, and how that's balancing with your personal life.

So, how did I get to where I am today, where I'm working 20 hours a week and I have just the right balance of time with my family, personal time, and time with my business and work? Still earning over six figures in a year and working half of what most people are working? The answer is that it is possible, but you do have to think about things a little differently than how you were taught, or what you were used to regarding your career approach. And yes, having a business and being self-employed has to be a part of it to make that possible, at least for now. My hope is that in the future, businesses that employ people will be able to figure out how to have employees only working 20 hours a week.

I really believe that we're getting to a point where we can figure out how to make that happen, where people are still earning enough money, yet you can still get promoted to different positions that pay more. Ultimately, there still has to be some kind of motive to develop your skills and develop your knowledge. I'm not saying, “just pay everyone the same.” But as I grow my company, I envision my company being one of those companies on the frontier of employing people part-time, but with a full-time income. They're able to support their family and have a much greater life balance. I think the next generation of children need their parents to not be working so much so they can be a stronger part of their life.

In this whole show, we really get into why the home should be at the center of your solar system, your universe, your life, and what that really means, and how the world is changing going forward. We also look at why that's so important.

So, how did I start? When somebody asks me, “what do you do or what is your job,” it's hard for me to just tell them one thing. I own a video marketing business where I help online companies grow their audience and increase their sales through video, by creating video content for YouTube channels and their website and their blog. I am a video content marketing expert. I am a career coach for the self-employed. I am a trainer, I'm a podcast host, and the list goes on and on. I've customized my career based on my talents and my skills so that I'm doing what I enjoy doing, but I'm also leveraging some marketable skills that businesses are willing to hire out for, skills that they need help with.

It's important that you think about how you can customize your career. The gig economy is not about just getting some weekend jobs, or some side job. And I try to avoid the word “gig” because that just seems like something you're doing on the side. It's not a side hustle, I'm not teaching people how to develop a side hustle.

I'm teaching people how to make it their whole career so that they have customized a career based on their talents and skills. Then, they can provide a service for individuals or businesses. We’re always in the middle of our story, but here is a recap of mine. You’ll be hearing details about my story and what's going on now, along with things from the past, as the past is relevant in future episodes throughout the show. But today, I'm going to give you an overview of the main plot so that you have some key ideas of what I've done and just know that my journey is not going to be your journey. Your journey will be an individual thing, but there's definitely some universal principles that I've learned from my journey that will help you. You may resonate with a lot of what I've experienced and, in that case, then your journey might be more similar to mine, but you're still a unique person and you'll have your own obstacles. But let’s dive into my experience.

I grew up with a passion for filmmaking. I was always the kid who had a video camera all the time. We always made a lot of dumb videos. I roped my friends and family into tons of movies that I did. We made a spy movie called “Mission Agent C.” That was a fun one. I'll have to put it online soon. Anyway, when I graduated high school, I went to college and I studied filmmaking. I started to focus on doing more serious stories about the human experience. I really love story and how story can teach and inspire people. And that's why I was drawn to filmmaking. And that's why my whole business is centered around video production.

After college, I worked as a freelance video producer. I actually got a job working for a video production company. I was a video editor and I worked for them for only a couple of months. I immediately realized how much I didn't belong in the 40 hour a week, commute to a job. I had to take the train up to a job in the city, sitting in a dark room editing. I was like, “wow, I really don't belong here.” I worked that job for a couple of months. I was a videographer who became a video strategy consultant.

After this, I ended up moving into helping people and teachers spread their messages through video. But it wasn't easy to get to where I am today. I've always wanted to be self-employed. I don't know if I always knew that, but I somewhat knew it. That's why I was pursuing filmmaking. It's mostly a self-employment type of job. Additionally, my parents divorced when I was 13, which probably had something to do with my motivation to be on my own, to become self-reliant. I immediately felt as if I no longer had this safe home with two parents taking care of me, which is why I think freelancing was always an attractive option for me. My childhood very much played into that.

But after college, I really didn't have the courage to attempt freelancing. I was married for two years before I graduated college and right after I graduated, we got pregnant and things got very real. I needed to find a job. The idea of starting a business was very much not in my mind, or the smartest thing to do. It seemed really risky and like something that was not going to be good. That’s why I originally accepted that full-time job that I disliked. I kind of gave in at first to the same thing that a lot of people give into. It’s like, “oh, this full-time job with all the salary job benefits. I have paid time off, consistent income paid vacation.” It was safe, but I still felt uneasy about it.

Then, after a couple of months, I switched from that one job where I commuted 40 minutes to be a video editor for another company to another full-time job. In the meantime, I was actually doing a little bit of freelance work on the side for a client that was local to where I lived. Then, the company that I did freelance work for gave me a job offer to work for them on a salary. And it was a work from home job where I worked remotely. Yet, it was still a full-time salary job. Of course, I took that job. I was excited to work from home. That’s something I was always attracted to, not having to commute into the city every day. I took that job, but felt slightly uneasy about pursuing that kind of career path.

About five months into that job, the company that I was working for from home full-time had to downsize and they had to cut a lot of people's positions, and my position included that cut. I lost my entire income all at once. The job security that I thought I had was gone in an instant. This all happened three months before my first son was born. It’s safe to say that I was definitely feeling extremely scared that I wouldn't be able to support my family. My wife and I both believe in at least one parent being able to be at home with our kids full-time throughout the day. I needed to bring in all the income and based on our beliefs with parenting, it just made sense for her to be the one at home because of nursing and taking care of the baby and so forth. After I started to process losing my job, I panicked, thinking that I needed to get back out there and find a new job, pronto.

I started to think maybe it's less risky if I diversify my employment, kind of like people diversify their investments? And they don't put all their eggs in one basket. They have several different modes of income. The idea of freelancing surfaced, because with freelancing, I can have several different clients, all consistently giving me work. If one client drops out, I still have the other clients and I only lose a portion of my income. And then I can go and replace that by finding a new client. So, then I decided to start my own freelance videography business. And for the next 9 months, I really struggled. It was hard because my son was born three months later. I wasn’t really making any money. I was trying to do this freelancing thing. I kept feeling conflicted about just going and finding a job.
I realized that one of the main things holding me back was my lack of sales skills, for one. And then also just my general lack of being able to communicate with people.

I was always shy growing up. I was a shy kid. I was, and I am, introverted. But the truth is that you don't have to be introverted and shy. Those are two separate things. I'm still introverted, but I'm no longer shy, but I was definitely shy growing up.Being shy means you have lower self-esteem, and you have a hard time connecting with people. That shyness definitely held me back in my ability to build up my freelance business, because networking was not something that came naturally to me. Now, even if you are an outgoing person, networking is a specific skill. You still have to learn how to sell yourself. Sales is still a specific skill you have to learn. Just because you're outgoing doesn't mean you'll be good at making sales.

Me not knowing how to talk to people in general made that even harder. I didn't have any idea how to prioritize what I was focusing on to build up my freelance business. I didn't have the right mindset or the skillset to make it work. We sank into a lot of debt, bad credit card debt just to live. And part of that was just not having all the best money management skills. But then part of it was also me not making enough money and having extremely inconsistent income. I just had a few gigs here and there, trying to find work online through some online freelancing sites where you can apply to jobs, and also trying to connect with people locally to do videography for them and edit their videos.

One of the hard parts is that many of the first clients I found simply didn't value my work for my time. I was a great video editor and videographer. I had the craft down. I just wasn't great at business and I wasn't great at sales. I didn't know how to charge enough for my skill. I mean, I've been editing videos since I was 12. I was very quick with it and I was creative with it, but I was too desperate to say no to people who didn't fit a certain profile. I accepted clients who didn’t fit my target audience for my business. I was working for people who didn't value my time and who didn't value my skills. I was definitely getting underpaid for what I was providing.

Long story short, a few months later in that year, I gave up on freelancing and I went back to a salary job. It was actually with the same company that I worked for before their business bounced back. They gave me another offer and I did freelance work for them. They were one of my clients when I was attempting my own business. They're one of my only clients. That first year while freelancing, I made $20,000, maybe $30,000. Obviously, nothing close to being enough to support a family on one income. Now I had my safe salary job again, but I still felt insecure about it. I wasn’t being true to who I really was, or true to the way that I needed to pursue my career. A few months into this new salary job, after much debate and discussion with my wife who has always been so supportive, we decided that I should do what seemed riskier. I decided to quit that full-time job and to attempt freelancing again. But this time, I decided to do things differently.

I had to figure out what went wrong before. I had to figure out where my skills were lacking and what knowledge I was lacking. I didn’t want any of that to hold me back. As a result, I decided to make a list of all my weaknesses that could contribute to failure. One of those weaknesses was time management. Another was my communication skills, both internally and externally. How I talked to myself, my mindset, and my own psychology, but also how I talked to others. I also looked at my sales skills and realized that being able to actually sell and enroll people into my services was a huge area that I lacked skill in.

Where I was heading at this point was very unclear. I didn’t know exactly what I was building and what I was trying to do with it, or who I was serving. So, I found mentors, I found books, and decided that there are other people who have figured this out, so I needed to talk to them. I learned from them so that I could succeed. I got lots of books on entrepreneurship and business. I learned how to price my work better, how to make a profit, and I used the little money that I had to hire the right mentors. I listened to podcasts on all the areas I was trying to master, and within three months, my freelance career really started to become something. I was earning enough income, just barely enough to support my family and to not get further into debt.

Things were becoming more stable and predictable, and I gained more control over my clientele. From there, I was able to keep building off that momentum and get to where I have my small business now. I have people who I hire to work with me. I don’t have employees; I have freelancers who complete work for my clients. A couple of years into this, I was able to get to where I was essentially working 30 hours a week. Now, I’m able to only work 20 hours per week.

Since I quit working a full-time job, I’ve never worked 40 hours a week because from the get-go, I was committed to building a business without sacrificing precious family moments. My children are only babies for a few seconds. Sure, I was tempted to commit 40 to 50 hours per week to build my business, but I knew that what mattered most was my children and my wife. Yes, earning money is part of taking care of a family. However, I don’t believe that earning money should come at the expense of losing all my time with my family. Consequently, putting a time restraint on myself actually helped drive me to work harder. It helped me prioritize the activities I chose to help build my business. It forced me to focus on what mattered most to get this business going. It forced me to rely on a higher power like God, but also other people. If you don’t have spiritual beliefs like me then this will help you to mainly rely on others such as teachers and mentors that can give you the advice and experience that you need.

As a solopreneur, you’ll realize that you’re not really “solo.” You’re not doing it alone. You’re getting help from a lot of different people and you have to be willing to get that help and to ask for that help. All in all, I’m grateful for the time constraint because it forced me to be very disciplined with my time and it helped me learn time management skills quickly. I can earn money in less time. I can do a task in only an hour but get $200 for doing it, whereas others may work three hours and only receive $50 per hour. As a human, I can only do things so quickly. I can’t break the laws of physics. However, it’s surprising just how fast you can accomplish something when you’re 100% focused because of time constraints.

That said, I refuse to sacrifice quality for speed. That’s something you’ll have to learn as well. You’ll learn this through your own experience by putting a system in place for double and triple checking your work so that it’s accurate. You just have to learn how to do that quickly and efficiently.

Now, I want to touch back on the “finding your voice” theme here. I found my voice by being able to communicate with people in general, but also by finding which one of the voices in my mind were truly mine. I had the voices of my parents, of teachers, of society, and even of random people on TV. There were all sorts of voices telling me what I should do. “Just go and get a normal job,” they’d say. All these expectations were in my head, and all these different voices were competing for my attention. When I found my voice under all of these others, I was able to stick with my voice finally and confidently. Keep in mind that you can still take advice from other people. I read books, I listened to mentors. Others may influence our decisions, but in the end, we make the final decisions ourselves. Ultimately, it was my voice that made the decision on what to do and how to pursue my career. Finding your voice is about finding your confidence in being who you truly are, pursuing what you know, and being able to tune out all of the voices that are trying to tell you to just “go back to bed.”

The good news is that this process never stops. I never stop looking for new clients. I never stop enrolling new people into my services. I never stopped thinking about how I can grow my business, because if I'm not growing, I'm actually shrinking. And that's something you get to learn as you grow a business that if you're not continually figuring out how to grow and adapt, you will start to shrink and then ultimately shut down.

There is one more point I wanted to touch on with my story that was so important. And this is why one of the themes of this show is about figuring out what really matters in life and business. For me, this is my wife and my kids first and foremost. Then, my health of course, as well. I wasn't willing to sacrifice those things to pursue more money. At first, I was thinking that I could be making more money if I just worked more, but I truly believe that I would not have made more money, if I worked more. If I had worked more hours, I would have faced burnout. Your mind can’t operate without balance. When you work the 40+ hour work week, you’re not taking care of your health, you’re not sleeping enough, and you’re not spending enough time with those who matter most to you. Stress builds and messes up your brain’s ability to problem solve and to be creative.

Positive stress is always needed. It helps you grow, and it makes you stronger. But the stress that comes from being out of balance from not being physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy will interfere with your ability to earn money and properly build your business. I am so very grateful that I proved to myself that I could work less and actually make more.

I had to take risks to get where I am, but I had to take fairly calculated risks. I couldn’t just take the big risks because I had a family to support. Other entrepreneurs have been able to take bigger risks, but that doesn’t mean that the small risks don’t count. I had to start out by just taking things a little more slowly and more calculated in order to feel comfortable, but I still took risks. And my wife was right there willing to take those risks with me so that we could ultimately have the life we wanted. It’s not just about me having the life I wanted. It’s about my kids having their parents around more often, and it’s about me being able to co-parent with my wife.

Every entrepreneur is different, so what works for single entrepreneurs may not work for those like me with families to take care of. And even if you're not in that kind of demographic, you'll still learn a lot from what we’ll be talking about here on Go Back To Bed. I am excited to hear about your stories and what you're doing to find your voice in your career and get to a place where you feel like you're living true to who you are. I’m not necessarily a self-help guru that's going to talk about how I'm living this perfect ideal life. I still have to put in time to get money back. I'm just getting more money per hour that I'm working. No one truly earns passive income. They’re always having to do something to get their money. They just haven’t figured out how to work less to get more money.

People will try to teach you how to get fancy cars and how to become a millionaire, but that’s because they’re not focused on what’s most important. I’m not saying it’s not okay to have things. I like to purchase things that provide comfort and are practical. But it’s important to not purchase items that are pointless simply because we have the money to do so. You must be responsible too. But we’ll get into that in future episodes.

Finally, I want to clarify that the way I approach things is by being completely honest with the fact that I am human and that my life still has challenges. I don’t want you to get the idea that you’re going to reach a place where there aren’t any difficulties. We’re constantly faced with new obstacles. That’s what we get to enjoy in this mortal life. We’re always getting hit with new challenges that will cause us to grow. There’s certain suffering that I no longer experience, but that’s because I didn’t have certain aspects of life figured out back then. As you build up a business, you have to balance things properly, sure, but I’m not immune from having challenges. I don’t want to give you the message that you’re going to get money and that money will solve all of your problems. Instead, I want you to see that like me, you can enjoy life differently than you did before.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I look forward to seeing you in our next early morning conversation.

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